Like most parents, I know the importance of languages, in particular learning a foreign language. I know how beneficial it can be for the future, and that children learn easier when they are younger. With that in mind I have a guest post from Will Collier. Will is a tutor of French, Spanish and Latin and also a children’s author. He is passionate about learning languages and the benefits this brings in terms of confidence-building, cognitive development, empathy and cultural awareness. His latest project is Little Linguists’ Library – picture books that allow you and your child to learn a language together. The Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help prepare these books for publication launched on Thursday 22nd March and will run to Saturday 21st April. We have met our initial funding target and have now set a ‘stretch target’. If we meet the stretch target everyone who has pledged to receive the paperback (or for any reward above that) will also receive a Little Linguists’ Library activity pack. This will include a variety of fun activities to complement the language learning in the books.
Many of us wish we spoke a foreign language and just as many of us want our kids to be able to do so. But often this seems a nice idea which is just too hard to make a reality. So, what can we do to change this? I am a languages tutor and children’s author and my new project Little Linguists’ Library is my answer to this question. Little Linguists’ Library are the picture books that allow you and your child to learn a language together. The books teach a foreign language in a natural way, in context and by repetition of key vocabulary in the form of a story. They aim to make story-time more rewarding for both of you.
Unlike picture books written for native speakers, these are original stories written specifically for language learners. And unlike dual-language books and other language learning products on the market which use a mix of English and the foreign language, Little Linguists’ Library stories are written exclusively in the foreign language. Pronunciation guides, translations and an audio of native speakers reading the story are provided to make sure even parents who have never learned the language can dive straight in.
I am currently running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help with the costs of publication of Book One in French and Spanish. In the meantime, and in line with my mission to create language-learning families, here are my top five tips for learning a language with your child.
Decide why you’re doing it
It’s so much easier to stay motivated and to decide what you need to learn if you have a clear aim, like being able to order food and ask basic questions on holiday. You also know how much time you need to dedicate to learning and can see how you’re progressing. Whatever you do, when deciding your reason, make sure you avoid the ‘F’ word – fluency. Fluency is a vague aim (no one agrees on what true fluency is) and it also misses the point of learning a language – to be able to communicate.
Learn language in context
Many people make pages upon pages of vocabulary and spend hours learning these lists. They then wonder why they can’t string together a sentence when they meet a native speaker of the language they’re learning. Did you learn English like this? You almost certainly learned it by hearing, seeing and repeating words within the wider context of a phrase. This is key to your learning as our brains store information by making links between the different things we have learned. Words on a vocab list learned in isolation have much less chance of sticking than words learned as part of a wider phrase.
Make it multimedia
These days we have a wide range of resources at our fingertips and this goes for learning languages too. YouTube is positively bursting with kid-friendly videos teaching phrases and songs in foreign languages, there are websites offering interactive language-learning games and there are streaming sites with songs in all the major world languages – and it’s all free. Games and songs are a great way to get kids interested in a foreign language and they are fun to do as a family.
Make it hands-on
We all have different ways of learning. Educational theorists say we are either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (learn best through physical activity) learners. I’d argue that everyone is a bit of all three depending on the topic and the time. So, mix up your learning and get a bit crafty. You could play games using flashcards (cards which link a picture to a piece of vocab or phrase) or, even better, make language learning posters to put up around the house (combining your kids’ visual and kin-aesthetic learner sides).
Have a set time each day
Little and often is better than a foreign language binge every few weeks. Even if it’s just five minutes each day, set a time every day to do some learning in the foreign language. A great quick thing to do if you only have a short time is a role-play, covering the basic introductions (hello, what’s your name, how old are you, how are you). To make this even more engaging get the kids to be creative and invent characters they will pretend to be.
Most of the time you are helping your children to learn things you already know. Learning a language together is a great way to make family time more rewarding.
For more info on Little Linguists’ Library and ideas on how to learn a language with your child, you can sign up to the mailing list, ‘like’ and follow them on Facebook and / or follow on Twitter and Instagram.